Dear Colleagues,

When an innovation ends up in a mobile phone, you can be sure of fairly wide exposure and it being invariably affordable.

And in this case; there was a recent announcement of a new version of the Apple iPhone with thermal imager built into it providing another opportunity to look at the world around you with new eyes. As is usual, there have been a few other established players in the market providing similar low cost solutions either connected to a phone or as part of a phone.

What is Infra red imaging?
A thermal camera grabs the infra-red light that comes from objects and displays this with specific colours tied to each temperature of the object. This allows you to look for temperature variations from the surrounding environment.

Applications
The applications range from engineering professionals examining electrical gear (e.g. transformers and switchgear) to look for any hot spots indicating an impending failure (due to excessive current). Firefighters use the thermal cameras to peer through smoke. Animals hiding in the undergrowth can be easily spotted.

Other applications range from examining the range of temperatures along a hot water pipe to see a blockage. Farmers can use scanners to look for moisture levels in the ground and decide on best watering patterns.

With the outbreak of the Ebola virus, thermal imaging can detect fevers at a distance at customs checkout posts. Tissue damage with the resultant inflammation can also be detected.

The problem to date is that the cost of these cameras has been on the high side. This would appear to be changing now with the rapid collapse in costs thus opening up  a wider range of applications.

Inevitably, cannabis crop growers also find this technology useful to look for competing outfits in their local suburb.

Developments
Expensive Android based cameras have already been released (e.g. Therm-app at $1000). Perhaps not to the level of fanfare of the Apple products; as these are still expensive.

The Hema solution (through an innovative start up in Ohio) can work with any Blue tooth or Wifi device and is not restricted to the iPhone only. And is low cost.

Can you think of a good infra red app for your mobile phone?

I am sure this quote from Anais Nin also applies to the application of technology to the market: Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve